A glimpse in time of what God is always

Understanding God would be so much easier if we’d been alive when Jesus was here, right? We could have seen Jesus in action, heard him speak, and even sat down with him and got a real sense of what God is like. But all we’ve got instead is a brief glimpse of him in a world very different to ours, based on what others wrote about him.

His time here had to be brief, of course, because he came to die, and after he died there was no need for him to come in a physical body to die again, Hebrews 7:26-27, and it’s only at some unknown date in the future when we get to see him again. In the meantime, therefore, between the time of his death and his return, we’re left with only a glimpse in time 2,000 years ago to figure out what God is like.

But that glimpse is enough to tell us what God is always. The life and death of Jesus are only a window in time, yes, but it’s a window that opens up to what is always happening in the heart of God, no matter what century we live in. When Hebrews 7:25 tells us that Jesus “always lives to intercede” fur us, it means he’s still doing what he did when he was here as a human – and we know what he did as a human in Luke 4:18 – he lived to intercede for people, demonstrated clearly in all the caring for people and teaching he did. So nothing’s changed: what Jesus did in his brief time on Earth, he’s doing today as well.

Only much better. Actually, it’s a lot better for us that Jesus ISN’T here as a human being because, Hebrews 9:24, “Christ has entered into heaven itself, to appear now before God as our Friend” (Living Bible). In his present position Jesus is far better able to intercede for us, because he’s right there in the presence of God, able to present our case to the Father personally. And he does it for every one of us, over and over again, no matter where we live on this planet, or in what period of time. What Jesus did in his human lifetime, therefore, wasn’t just a one-time event. It illustrates what God is always doing. He’s always seeking us, loving us and sacrificing for us. And as each new crop of Christians appears, he’s ready to repeat the whole process all over again, because in Jesus and his brief time here on Earth we have a glimpse in time of what God is always.

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Sight for the blind

For most of the year squirrels scamper off to the nearest tree if I’m close by, but not in the Fall. They don’t seem to notice me at all. One such squirrel nearly ran into me the other day. I saw him scampering toward me and at his trajectory and speed combined with mine we’d meet head to foot – his head, my foot – in about three seconds. But he didn’t slow down. He shot across my path as if I didn’t exist.

Very odd that, I thought. Squirrel brains obviously change channels in autumn, becoming blind to anything but gathering food for the winter. That’s all they see. But humans are like this in the winter months too, because here come Halloween and Christmas again, and what happens? People brains change channels. Normally quite sensible people, who diligently budget the rest of the year and cut out coupons to save tiny fractions of money, suddenly throw caution to the wind at Halloween and Christmas and think nothing of blowing the budget on mostly useless, short-lived junk.

It’s not the junk that makes me scratch my head in wonder, it’s the blindness. In a great mass hypnotic state, the most intelligent species on Earth plods off to fulfill its own self-imposed rituals at Halloween and Christmas, and sees nothing wrong with them. But what about the cost, the waste, and debts piling up through spending what we can’t afford? It doesn’t matter; the show must go on, regardless.

I can see why God sent Jesus to give “sight for the blind,” Luke 4:18, because he could see we’d need help. But he’s totally willing to help us, “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves,” Colossians 1:13. He knows the dilemma we’re in. We’re living in a world of darkness. It’s no wonder, then, we’re stumbling around like blind people, oblivious to what our culture is doing to us.

Jesus, however, exists in another dimension above all this mundane stuff, and he’s all for lifting us above it as well, Colossians 2:20, 3:1-4. We’re not stuck in just one dimension (like squirrels in the Fall) forever blinded by the “god of this age,” 2 Corinthians 4:4. God offers us the chance to escape the powers that blind us and bind us to our insane and destructive ways. And couldn’t our world do with that right now? But we have the solution right at our fingertips: God sent Jesus to give sight for the blind.

“The Son can do nothing by himself” – meaning?

When Jesus said (in good old King James language) in John 5:30 that “I can of mine own self do nothing,” I always thought he was referring to his helplessness, or admitting he didn’t have the strength or ability to fulfill God’s will on his own.

That isn’t what Jesus was saying, though. In context he’s showing the Jews he wasn’t acting on his own. Everything he did was completely in tune with his Father, and that’s why they could trust him.

He gave several examples. He never sought to do his own will, for instance, only his Father’s will (verse 30). He only did what he saw his Father do (verse 19). His judgement was his Father’s judgement (verses 30), his powers were his Father’s powers (verse 21) and his Father never questioned his judgement, either (verse 22). The Jews could rest assured, then, that Jesus wasn’t acting by himself, or doing his own thing. He simply couldn’t, and wouldn’t, do that. “The Son can do nothing by himself,” verse 19, meaning he would never act on his own.

Jesus gave more examples, too. What he spoke were his Father’s words (John 12:49), what he did were his Father’s works (John 14:10), and what he taught was his Father’s doctrine (John 7:16). He never did anything of himself. It always had the Father’s full authority and backing. There was power and authority behind his words, then, when he said, in John 5:24, “whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”

Jesus didn’t shy away from the fact that he had extraordinary powers. He could give eternal life “to whom he is pleased to give it.” verse 21, he’d been entrusted with “all judgement,” verse 22, he had “life in himself,” verse 26, and it’s his voice we hear if we wish to live for ever, verse 25.

These were incredible claims Jesus was making, which, understandably, the Jews were having trouble accepting. It sounded like he was saying he was God. But that’s not what Jesus was saying. He said “I can of myself do nothing.” In other words, he wasn’t setting himself up as God, or setting himself up as a great authority, or acting on his own. Absolutely not; everything he did came from the Father. It had his Father’s approval, the Father’s backing and the Father’s authority behind it. Jesus would never step outside his Father’s wishes.

Everything he did was his Father’s doing. That’s why they could trust him, and so can we.

Real living is knowing God

In John 17:3, Jesus tells us what real life – life you can live forever – is all about; it’s knowing God. But why is knowing God important? Because if we don’t know God we don’t why he made us, do we? And if we don’t know why he made us then we’re running through life completely blind, and what’s the sense in that? Think what we might be missing out on, too…

Adam and Eve didn’t care a hoot about that, though. They only had ears for a serpent who made them think God wasn’t worth knowing. So, instead of them experiencing what it meant to be “made in God’s image,” they swam off into life without a clue what life was for. And what was life like after that? It was horrible. People became so twisted in their thinking they could only think of evil things to do to each other. And after living through such an awful existence, they ended up dying anyway and disintegrating back into nothingness. It was a terrible waste of life, and all from not knowing what life was for.

It was tragic too, as far as the Word, our Creator, was concerned, because he knew what life was for. It was he who’d given life to human beings in the first place, and given us minds like God’s so we could share God’s life and love in an everlasting paradise, but look what had happened instead. It was a disaster. God’s plan for humanity was up the spout. Did the Word, therefore, want nothing more to do with us? Quite the contrary. Instead, he felt enormous compassion for us, seeing us so horribly wasted and humiliated by the Devil. He would not see us rot.

But that meant starting over again. It meant renewing us in God’s image again. It meant giving us a second chance at knowing God and why he’d made us. Solution? He, the Word, would become one of us. That way we could see God, and in seeing him, know him. And what did people see? They saw him heal everyone who came to him for healing. He cast out demons. He stilled a storm. He walked on water. He even brought people back from the dead. After seeing all that, it was obvious he’d been sent by God. No ordinary human being could do what Jesus did.

Good, because everything Jesus said and did would open their eyes to what God was like. Seeing him was exactly like seeing God, John 14:9. Imagine the shock, then, when he was killed…

God’s dilemma

God’s dilemma had come about because he’d given humans a will. As such, we could decide for ourselves what we wanted to do. Trouble is, we’d be sorely tempted with this will of ours to act independently of God. It’s the nature of the beast, it seems, just like it was for a third of the angels who were also given a will, but used it to reject God and branch out on their own.

When the serpent, therefore, gave Eve excuse to branch out on her own as well, it was an easy sell. So easy that neither her or Adam felt any compunction to check things out with God. They just did what the serpent said. But it all sounded so good being king and queen of their own castle, free to do as they pleased, and think they were so clever they didn’t need God. So they disobeyed him. Result? They would die and disappear.

But that wasn’t what God had “framed the worlds” for (Hebrews 11:3). He didn’t give humans a will so they could turn whichever way they wanted. He made us to be like him, in his image, sharing his mind and nature. That’s how he started Adam and Eve off, and all they needed to do to remain in that state was trust God, tune their will to his and follow his instructions, and then at the end of their mortal lives God would have made them immortal so they could share his life forever. It was a great plan. And if they’d followed along with it, God would have shielded them from the natural inclination of their will, just as he does for Christians today.

The cause of God’s dilemma, then, was humans who didn’t use the help available to combat the natural inclination of their will. It was the same with the angels. If they’d all tuned their will to God’s will, it would’ve kept their own will in check. It’s the same for us as Christians. We know from very real experience that constantly staying tuned to God’s will keeps our will in check. Lose our contact with God and our will soon takes over.

Which is exactly what happened to Adam and Eve. They let the serpent tune them into his will, not God’s. And the Devil’s still at it today because our inclination to want to act independently of God is still so easy to sell to. But if it’s that easy to sell to, what chance have we got of resisting? Ah, well that’s where the “Word became flesh” comes in again….

When God walked and talked with us

I’ve often wondered what kind of body God appeared to Adam and Eve in. There’s a clue in Genesis 3:8, because when they hid from God, he went looking for them, walking in the Garden and calling to them, meaning he had eyes, legs and a voice, just like a human.

It tells us something of the relationship God wanted with humans. He walked and talked with Adam and Eve at their level. It was a lovely, easy relationship between humans and their Creator, and I assume it would have continued this way throughout their lives until God made them immortal, at which point they could relate to God at his level, too.

But that was the plan. Having humans relating to him that easily and that closely was exactly what God intended, because he “created man in his own image,” Genesis 1:27. He made us in his likeness, “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world…to be adopted as his sons,” Ephesians 1:4-5. We humans, therefore, had an amazing future ahead, as the only creatures God made that he could share his life with. He started that life off by sharing our realm with us, but always with the aim that we’d share his realm with him. Heaven and earth would come together as one. .

But that’s always been his intent. From the very beginning God the Father wanted to shower the life of heaven on us, Ephesians 1:3. But it all blew apart at the starting blocks when Adam and Eve disobeyed God, because from then on humans would simply live out their physical lives, die, and disappear back into non-existence again. And that created a dilemma for God, because he couldn’t go back on his word. Death meant death. But what kind of God would he be if he let humanity die out without doing anything about it, especially when he made us to bring the realms of heaven and earth together as one?

But God had the Word, and through him the dilemma would be solved, because the Word created humans in the first place (John 1:1-3), so the Word could RE-create humans too. But notice how he did it: He created himself as a human and entered our realm again. He walked and talked with humans, just like he did in Eden, and lived the life God created humans for. And through the Spirit he now lives that life in us, so that we can enter the life he how lives as a human being, the life of heaven, but lived in humans on the earth. Heaven and earth as one, walking and talking together on this earth forever.